Washington Spirit striker Ashley Hatch is the 2021 NWSL Golden Boot winner. Hatch scored 10 goals in 20 appearances for the Spirit this season, holding off challenges from Midge Purce, Bethany Balcer, Rachel Daly, Ifeoma Onumonu, and Sydney Leroux to bring the Golden Boot home for the second time in Spirit history (Crystal Dunn in 2015 being the other player to lead the league in goals for Washington).
The secret to Hatch’s success this year was a simple consistency: She scored in the Spirit’s regular season opener, and from there never went more than three games between goals. She scored four goals with her right foot, four with her left, and two headers. The stereotypical Hatch goal — running onto a through ball to push the ball past an advancing goalkeeper — was on display regularly, but Hatch added better long-range shooting and got better at winning her aerial battles. In other words, you could game-plan for the Spirit attack all you wanted, but Hatch’s diversified skill set meant the goals were still coming.
Teams couldn’t even opt for the approach to limit her supply line. Here’s a list of who got the assist on Hatch goals, and what kind of service was provided:
- Tori Huster (out-swinging near-post cross for a header)
- Natalie Jacobs (ball over the top from deep in midfield)
- Kelley O’Hara (in-swinging cross into the middle for a header)
- Tegan McGrady (out-swinging cross that drew the GK and fell to her for a volley)
- Andi Sullivan (through ball on a 2v2 counter)
- Tara McKeown (diagonal through ball after counter-pressing)
- unassisted (O’Hara in-swinger that was blocked into Hatch’s path)
- Trinity Rodman (that cross just behind the defense that is the NWSL pass of the season)
- Trinity Rodman (quick dish after intercepting a backpass to the GK)
- Trinity Rodman (pass at midfield that was meant to just spark a counter but became an assist when Hatch fired a rocket from 25 yards)
Having just watched all of these goals consecutively, there’s very little similarity here. There are goals against teams that dropped very deep, goals created on longer counters, goals in transition. Hatch’s runs go up the middle, slashing in from the left, drifting in off the right, and on and on. It turns out that being unpredictable is how you win a Golden Boot!
Let’s close this piece out with the goal that won it for Hatch, which just so happens to be her best goal of the year, and arguably of her entire time with the Spirit: